Key Thought for this session:

“Lack of TRUST reduces the effectiveness of my community.”

Ok, moving on. It is important to know that differences in worldviews within the broader community cause smaller groups to form. This can create tension within the community. These differences often result in what we call “in groups and out groups”. Being in a group where everyone’s view is aligned provides safety and continuity for its members, but creates a source of conflict with those who are not included in the group. Usually groups within a community compete with each other causing conflict. Often this will isolate individuals in the “out groups” from those in the “in groups”. You get this, right? It’s just like cliques you would see in your school or other social circles.

Some groups that form within a larger community have views that are in conflict with the authorities of that community. This is why rebellion occurs.

These in-group/out-group dynamics that occur in communities bring us to questions that are very important when we look to ways for communities to work better. We have been emphasizing in the course that satisfaction in life depends on whom you trust. So, communities are built around questions like these:

Can members TRUST each other, can members trust authority and can authority trust members?

Let’s take a moment to define trust and why it is important not only for the satisfaction of its members, but for the overall success of the community.

If I were to ask leaders of a community if they would like its members to trust them more and they would like to trust the members more, what do you think they would say? There are some cynics, but most people would say, ‘of course,’ right? And if I asked members of that community if they would like to trust each other and their leaders more and be trusted more, what would they say? Again, with some exceptions, most would say, ‘of course.’ OK, so let me ask you another question: if so many people in a community, both leaders and members, want more trust, why do we have so little of it?

Do you find that question interesting? Or, have you ever thought about it?
You may find that the answer to this question surprises you.

Most people see trust as a strong belief, like “I trust (or I really believe) that the economy will improve.” However, in relationships, trust has a more specific meaning. Trust requires that action be attached to the belief. For example, you may know someone that you firmly believe is an evil man. While you have a strong belief or you “trust” something ABOUT the man (like, the fact that he is evil), you do not have a trust IN the man that guides your relationship with him. In other words, you would not trust this man with your money or children or your life.
I am going to give you a really long definition of trust that applies to you and people in your community. Don’t panic, I’ll break it down bit by bit so you can digest the reality of trust AND the real potential of trust.

In relationships, trust is a decision one party makes toward another party in which the trusting party agrees to give some control to the trusted party because the trusting party believes the trusted party will not act selfishly. I agree, that is a long statement, and...it sounds a little bit like it was written by a lawyer! So, let’s look at it a piece at a time. First, there are two parties, individuals or groups of individuals. Our definition says, “One party has decided to trust the other party. Trust then is a choice.” Therefore, trust is considered a willful act. What does the choice involve? Well, continuing on... ”the trusting party is giving some control to the trusted party.” Why would anyone do that? Because “the trusting party believes that the trusted party will act in the interest of the trusting party and not their own selfish interest.”

Trust is an action a person takes toward another based on their judgment of that person’s character. A handshake means we do not need legal contracts or armies to protect us. The character of the person you trust is the guarantee you will be treated right.

Trust is a type of willful vulnerability, where we choose to give others some form of control over us. We begin to see why we have so little trust. Most people are taught from an early age to value power – that they should want MORE control, not LESS. Trust and control are at opposite ends of the same continuum.

In most situations people are suspicious of the motives of others. Often for good reason. Most people assume other people are self-serving and wish to have control to get their own way, for their own benefit. In Type 1 governed communities, control is maintained by force through coercive power. In Type 2 communities, both parties use their role in the exchange or reward and punishment systems to influence or control what others do. You can’t have both trust AND control in a relationship.

Another important question about trust is, “Does trust really matter to the success of community?”

Here’s one real-world example of a Type 3 community where the generosity of the leader resulted in great trust by the others for him. In Bangladesh, millions of poor people, especially women, could not get financial credit. in 1976, a man by the name of Muhammad Yunus was so disturbed about this situation, he decided to help them and their communities. He started slowly lending small amounts of money to people who had nothing to offer as collateral. The only so-called control he had was that if they did not pay back their debt, they could have no more loans. He trusted them to repay their debt... and it worked. Today he has loaned billions of dollars to millions of poor people who are building businesses and changing their lives, and... 75% of them are women.

Through a process of building relationships with groups of poor people, his kindness, combined with his trust in the character of these people grew the economy, and transformed the lives of individuals.

Many studies have found that trust has a significant effect on outcomes of communities. Ok, its reasonable for you to be thinking, “in what ways?” How can giving up control and sharing power make things work better? Here is a way I have always found helpful in understanding the value of trust.

Lack of trust can be seen as clogged arteries in the human body.
The body is healthier when blood flows freely. So it is in community life. The community is healthier when information flows freely. When there is a lack of trust, people withhold information that could help others. They do this because they fear it will be used against them. In communities of high trust, information flows freely, making the community more agile and flexible to situations. This flexibility allows them to respond better to unexpected events—whether potentially bad, or ones that might present new opportunities.

Formal contracts are less necessary and people can work together to solve problems, rather than protecting their self-interest.

So, how trust fits into your worldview, and that of others in your community, will be a major factor in how power affects what people do in relationship with each other and their leaders. Trust exists in some form in all types of communities, but ultimately worldviews on trust will be an important factor in the community’s success. Many believe that a major reason Type 3 communities are more successful is that there is more trust. Trust unleashes the human capacity in every member of the community. For this reason, we see that communities that are based on a culture of undeserved kindness result in more trust... than exchange-based communities. Reward/punishment systems put constraints and boundaries on people’s behavior. It is reasonable to see that in relationships where each party is not self-serving, individuals will be more free to take risks for everyone’s benefit.

There is one more point we need to consider regarding trust. Often, we say we trust another person to do something for us because we believe they not only will consider our interest above their own, but they are also CAPABLE of doing a good job in benefiting us. When we combine a person’s character with their competence, we say the person is TRUSTWORTHY. It’s very important for the success of communities that members not only have the character that others can trust, but also have the knowledge and skills to do what their role in the community requires.

So, let’s pause to see how we are doing. We just explored questions about the worldview of community. Let’s see what you can remember.